Raghav’s Take: Ayodhya Temple Trust Can Share Records, End Doubts
Ayodhya to G-7, The Quint’s Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on recent developments.
Crisis in Ayodhya, Again: Temple Trust Should Share Authentic Records or Doubts Will Continue
All of us believed that a comprehensive five-judge-bench judgment, nearly three decades after the disputed Babri Masjid was demolished, had finally calmed the fury that was the Ayodhya crisis.
Even though several civil society groups were aggrieved by the jurisprudence in the unanimous order, people took the outcome in their stride, accepting that communal peace was a welcome trade-off. But Ayodhya leapt right back into controversy with a strange allegation of corruption.
Apparently, a piece of land was “bought” several years ago for Rs 2 cr, but the deal was not consummated. Then suddenly, that plot exchanged hands twice, within a few minutes! First, the old deal was concluded and minutes later, the land was sold to the temple trust for a whopping amount of 9 times the price at Rs 18.5 crore. Yes, a 9× price appreciation in 10 minutes!
The dramatis personae in both the transactions were identical, affiliated to the BJP and the trust. The Opposition was up in arms, crying “scandal in the holy name of Lord Ram”. The trust rubbished the charge, trying to explain everything away as two different transactions, theoretically separated by several years, but occurring within minutes of each other (how’s that for celestial time travel?).
Now, my point here is simple. The defence being put up by the temple trust is a matter of fact – ie, if unquestionably authentic documents/records exist to prove the genuineness of the “old” transaction, put it out in the public domain and let everything rest. Else, doubts will continue to be cast that the revered name of “Maryada Purushottam Lord Ram”, or His Unimpeachable Holiness, has been dragged into an ugly shenanigan.
India Backs 'Freedom of Expression' at G-7: Real Position Possibly Hidden in PM Modi's Speech
India has bravely signed the G-7 “Open Societies Statement” that calls for “freedom of expression, both online and offline, as a freedom that safeguards democracy and helps people live free from fear and oppression”.
But India has to reconcile this lofty affirmation with its dubious record of ordering the largest number of internet shutdowns in the free world, and frequent run-ins with free speech advocates.
I guess India’s real position was hidden in PM Modi’s speech, which, if read between the lines, was a virtual “note of dissent” to the statement: “Cyberspace (must remain) an avenue for advancing democratic values and not of subverting it … (I share) the concern that … open societies are particularly vulnerable to disinformation and cyber-attacks.”
Earlier, India’s foreign minister had asserted that we “must be on guard against fake news and digital manipulation”. Clearly, India’s support for the “Open Societies Statement” has been heavily caveated.
G7 Summit & America's Attacks on China: India Now Has to Walk a Treacherous Tightrope
India could be staring at another dilemma from the G-7 summit, ie the hard elbows, with which China was singled out.
US President Joe Biden announced America’s “return” to the leadership of the free world (after President Trump’s voluntary pullback from that mantle) by attacking China over the treatment of Muslim minorities, for severely eroding Hong Kong’s promised autonomy, and threatening hostilities in the Taiwan Strait.
The final twist in the knife was an undisguised call for probe to figure out if China played a sinister role in unleashing the COVID-19 virus on the world.
Quite clearly, our multi-polar world, which was born around 2008, seems to be pivoting back to a sharply bipolar one – divided between the “western/democratic American Bloc” and “authoritarian China/Russia Bloc”.
India, of course, could get trapped in no man’s land in this standoff. Our interests may be aligned better with America, but we have a genuinely old friendship with Russia that needs to be protected. And China is our powerful military/economic adversary across nearly 4,000 kilometres of an unsettled border.
We can’t tilt too far on either side and our earlier escape route of “non-alignment” is as good as dead in world politics. To put it mildly, we have to walk a treacherous tightrope.
A Conflicted PNB Housing Board? Here's What They Can Do:
Just a few days back, I had celebrated Carlyle’s takeover of PNB Housing Bank as a model of public sector privatisation that would maximise value for the government/taxpayers. I had qualified my delight by assuming that “every statute was scrupulously followed for the acquisition”.
However, reports have emerged that PNB Housing’s board could have been conflicted, with the majority of its directors having some sort of tangible, or suspected, quid pro quo with the Carlyle group.
Now, I am not going to rummage through the technicalities of what constitutes a direct quid pro quo, as opposed to a relationship that exists but cannot be called as such. The fact is that like Caesar’s wife, all directors must be seen to be completely above suspicion, especially since PNB Housing is not a private company but one that is built primarily on taxpayers’ money.
So, since the matter has still to be put to a shareholders’ vote, I would urge the board to get a commitment from Carlyle that it will abstain from voting on the resolution. If the rest of the shareholders approve the deal, without Carlyle influencing the outcome in any way, then the directors would stand fully vindicated.
India's Forex Reserves Cross $600 Billion: Are We Still Going to Show Our Trademark Risk Aversion?
Finally, India’s foreign exchange reserves have crossed USD 600 billion. Are we still going to run shy of launching a USD 10 billion Sovereign India Dollar Bond?
Every time I’ve advocated this, critics have fallen like a ton of bricks on me saying “no, it’s too much of a foreign exchange risk for a country that runs a trade deficit”.
Really? We are only talking about a USD 10-billion raise, which is 1/60th of our foreign currency reserves.
What’s more, these are underpinned by a couple of truly stable inflows. for instance, Indians remit nearly USD 80 billion year after year and FDI inflows are steady at nearly USD 40-50 billion per annum. Both these streams are not “risky inflows”. Are we still going to wear our trademark risk aversion on our sleeve? If yes, that’s irrational.
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